Massage Techniques

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Last Medical Review: April 9, 2020
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Luis Alberto Vallejo
Massage Therapy Techniques (April 9, 2020)

The massage has several classifications according to their specialty. In this section we will talk about the basic manual techniques, which, as the name implies, are usually done with the hand of the physiotherapist by means of which a mechanical energy is propagated between two means, one of them being the active one, that is, the hands of the therapist physical and other passive means, composed of the body tissues that are worked.

Classification of massage techniques

Seven basic techniques are classified into:

  • Touch
  • Friction
  • Percussion
  • Deletion
  • Compression
  • Kneading
  • Vibration

In addition to these massage techniques, there are three more which are “adapted techniques” that receive this name since they are derived from the basic ones, and are

  • Shaking
  • Pinching
  • Twists


It is the main maneuver among massage techniques. It consists of rubbing or sliding the hand on the patient’s skin without causing sliding of the underlying tissues in the case of superficial friction.

This maneuver is the introductory to any session. Therefore it is also known as “initial maneuver” or “contact.” It is also used to finish the massage.

An important element when applying a friction is its rhythm that will be slow and uniform, leaving fast rhythms only to achieve surface warming effects.

There is also deep friction, which differs from the superficial one because it reaches deep tissues (muscles, vascular system, fascia, etc.), apart from that it is a mixed friction technique with displacement and slight pressure.


This maneuver aims to mobilize superficial skin planes over deeper planes. This tissue will be as wide as the laxity of the subcutaneous cellular tissue allows and the patient will tolerate it.

In this maneuver the hand of the physiotherapist and the skin will form a unit that will look for the controlled pressure of the deep tissues of the area to be treated, this being one of the most important characteristics.

The application of friction massage techniques is through the use of pulps, it requires a smaller contact area than friction. The movements that characterize it are circular and elliptical, as well as brief and precise.

This maneuver has a strong hyperemiant effect and depending on the duration of the application can go from stimulating to relax, and even to produce, strong analgesia.


Within the massage techniques, percussion requires that the hands or parts of the hands administer light strokes at a rapid pace on the body, the hands must be in a hollowed shape and therefore a hollow sound must be heard.

The movement must be triggered from the elbow to give stability to the wrist at the time of percussion.

Percussions are massage techniques par excellence stimulants, causing a great irrigation at the muscular level, which operates through the response of the nerves.

It should be remembered that due to their impact on the tissues, the percussions should be reserved for a continuous and repeated application applied close to the kidneys in the lower dorsal part of the back.


Crossing out movements are very important massage techniques.

The strikethrough consists of successive movements made with the ulnar edge of the hand, in which the fingers strike each other with an elastic touch, their main characteristic is the loss of repeated contact with the skin.

The impact should be very short and the pressure, although strong, should be calibrated in relation to the effect it is intended to achieve.

Cross-outs are stimulating massage techniques par excellence, as is percussion capable of normalizing muscle tone and with a clear circulatory stimulating effect.


Massage techniques do not always include hand scrolling. Such is the case with compression.

In this technique there is no movement of the fingers. The area or region to be treated is compressed and pressed.

The compression can be static or maintained and compression with sliding, to compress an area more or less for some time. Either static or sliding requires a lot of energy.

This maneuver consists of compressing an area, covering it between the hands or between the fingers or between the hand and hard plane, which is usually bone. It is important to keep the rhythm and intensity uniform in order to obtain homogeneous effects.

The duration is determined by the persistence of the analgesic effect. It is recommended at least 30 seconds to 60 seconds.


This technique is based on compression of the skin, subcutaneous tissue and underlying muscles.

Kneading demands greater strength and intensity of the hands. It consists of taking, sliding and lifting the muscular tissues, trying to take off the deep planes and seeking to move them transversely from one side to the other, while performing a pressure and stretching with slight torsion of the muscular belly, therefore it is necessary to use half sliding

To perform this maneuver, the hands are placed on the area whose muscles are to be kneaded, between the fingers you will try to take the muscle mass to be treated, performing with the hands a claw effect that firmly holds the tissues to be able to then carry out a movement of deployment followed by torsion and rhythmic stretching.


From a static pressure and varying its intensity rhythmically try to produce small oscillation movements on the area under treatment.

During application the hands never lose contact with the skin.

Vibratory massage techniques require training and some manual expertise, because only in this way the therapist achieves a sufficient frequency without quickly becoming exhausted.

Its effect on the circulatory system is peripheral stimulant and on the soothing and sedative nervous system.

Techniques adapted from basic massage techniques

Shaking: It is derived from vibration. Its effect is soothing and relaxing on the muscles and manipulative on the joints. They are effective in relieving tension in arms and legs, to accelerate circulation and restore muscle tone.

Pinching: It is rooted in percussion and axing. It is used in sports massage along with the shaking, in addition to its use in adhered scars in order to make them more flexible and detached, and on fascia and tendons for stimulating purposes.

Torsions: They are based on kneading. This technique is used in decontracting massage because it uses the shear forces in the area to be treated causing a elimination of muscle tension, applied in both hands in a simultaneous movement. It is important to use sliding medium.

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